Fraudulent Wilderness, Part 1

Officially and legally, “wilderness” is defined in the Wilderness Act of 1964 (Public Law 88-577) as:

[A]n area where the earth and [its] community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which… generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable.

To repeat the key words:

- untrammeled by man
- primeval character and influence
- natural conditions
- affected primarily by the forces of nature
- the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable

Are there any such properties in the Americas (North or South)?

No, there are not.

The Americas have been occupied and modified by human beings for at least 13,500 years. That’s a long, long time. That’s all the way back to the Pyramids in Egypt (4,000 years ago) and back that far again, and back that far again.

Over the previous 13 millennia nearly every square inch of the “New” World has been trammeled by man. Man has affected the vegetation and animal life. Man has left his imprint.

Technically, legally, by definition of the Wilderness Act, very few acres qualify. Perhaps there are some steep mountain crags, unclimbable except with modern technical climbing gear, where man has not trammeled around. That’s all. Everywhere else has been trammeled, and trammeled plenty, by human beings over the last 13,500 years.

There is big push right now in Congress to declare new wilderness areas. None of the properties fit the legal definition.

For instance, Gold Butte in Clark County, NV, has been pushed for wilderness designation. From the Desert Valley Times [here]:

Gold Butte bill draws praise, anger

Bob Challinor, Desert Valley Times, September 30, 2008

Reaction varied from outrage to applause for a bill introduced in Congress Friday that would grant National Conservation Area or wilderness status to nearly a half-million acres of federal land in Clark County.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., introduced the bill that would create a National Conservation Area at Gold Butte, a region encompassing 362,177 acres. The bill would allow some controls on visitors to Gold Butte, which now is designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

Within the conservation area, 128,373 acres would be managed as federal wilderness, a designation that prohibits vehicle traffic of any kind.

The sweeping bill upgrades protection to Gold Butte and surrounding areas, the goal Friends of Gold Butte and the Nevada Wilderness Project have sought for years. …

Berkley said: “Gold Butte is an amazing natural treasure that is also home to unique Native American drawings and there is strong support in southern Nevada for protecting this desert gem before it’s too late. …

Emphasis added. The area has rock art, carved into rocks by the human residents over thousands of years. That’s trammeling. The rock art depicts human beings hunting animals. That’s trammeling, too. The rock art is distinctly the imprint of man’s work, and it is substantially noticeable.

The former resident human beings used fire to modify the vegetation. The vegetation has been affected primarily by anthropogenic forces, not the forces of nature.

In no way, shape, or form does the Gold Butte area fit the legal definition of wilderness. That fact is plain as day. Nobody denies it.

Yet Shelley Berkley, the Friends of Gold Butte, and the Nevada Wilderness Project wish to force a square peg into a round hole and have land that is distinctly NOT wilderness be declared as such.

They say they desire wilderness designation to “protect” the land. Yet wilderness designation destroys land by eliminating stewardship, stewardship that has been ongoing for 13,500 years.

If you read the rest of the Desert Valley Times article you will note that the current residents of Clark County do not want wilderness designation. You will also note that Sen. Harry Reid is involved. Further study will reveal that Harry Reid is a crook of the first order.

Another example: the Sky Lakes Wilderness in the Rogue River-Siskiyou NF, recently incinerated by the Middlefork Fire [here]. That 21,125 acre fire was punctuated by repeated canopy fire and plume events that decimated old-growth, young-growth, endangered species habitat, and watershed integrity. Did wilderness designation “protect” those forests? Obviously and tragically not.

Was the the Sky Lakes Wilderness untrammeled by man? Not according to the RR-SNF [here]:

Beginning several thousand years ago Native American groups-ancestors of the Klamath and the Takelma Indians-hunted game and gathered huckleberries within the Sky Lakes area. Klamath youths would sometimes come to make their “vision quest” (a religious experience during which one fasted in solitude and sought a spiritual vision while dreaming) on high peaks along the Cascade crest. However, the short season of mild weather and the limited variety of food plants and animals did not encourage prehistoric visitors to stay long.

The early white settlers also made use of the Sky Lakes-hunting, trapping beaver or marten in the winter, grazing their stock (in the early days, large herds of sheep) in the high meadows during the warm months. Settlers from lower-elevation communities came each August to pick huckleberries at places like Stuart Falls and Twin Ponds. After 1906 the newly established Forest Service built trails and fire lookouts within the Sky Lakes area. By mid-1970s, a new Pacific Crest Trail route replaced the original Oregon Skyline Trail of a half-century earlier.

Man has been visiting, using, and deliberately and skillfully maintaining the huckleberry and beargrass fields of the Sky Lakes area for millennia. Wildlife populations have been subject to control by the keystone predators, humans, since the Ice Age. The area is criss-crossed with ancient trails and peppered with ancient campsites.

Wilderness designation was wrongly applied, in denial of the actual history which is evident and well-accepted, and catastrophe ensued. Prior to the Middlefork Fire the lakes were clean:

Several of the Wilderness’s lakes (Alta and Natasha among them) were found (by 1980s-90s Environmental Protection Agency baseline study of acid-rain conditions in Western U.S. mountain lakes) to have among the most chemically pure water known of all lakes on the globe.

Not anymore. Now they have been polluted with ash and soot. The scenery has been charred beyond recognition, too.

Is that protection? No, it is destruction. The elimination of human stewardship and wholesale destruction go hand in hand.

To be continued…

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